At least once a month my husband and I, deeply in love and incredibly happy, admit to each other that marriage is not what we thought it would be.
We both had expectations of what married life would be like and our current life is nothing like it. No matter how much we day dreamed as single people, while we were dating, or even as an engaged couple, we cannot make our marriage match our dreams. But that’s ok.
I’d even propose that our life is better than all of our dreams.
We often talk about how lucky we are to have our amazing marriage and wonder how we got here. I recently took the time to think through the single, dating, and engaged stages of life to answer this question. It’s been a wild ride, but I’ve learned a lot through the years.
Lessons from the Single Life
I grew up looking for affirmation from men. It’s not fun to admit but it’s true. I liked being the pretty girl who also loved football and quickly found it was easier to be friends with guys than girls. I “dated” on and off starting in middle school. I say “dated” because when you can’t drive or go anywhere, is it really a date? But I talked on the phone with and kissed a lot of guys I’m not proud of.
By the time I finished college, I hadn’t been single for longer than a few months at a time and had experienced a two year and a four year relationship. I definitely learned some lessons about life and love, but none of it really mattered because I didn’t know who I was.
I had never taken the time to set my priorities or find my identity in anything other than academics and approval from men. It wasn’t until late in college that I started to pray and let the Lord transform my life. When I started asking Him what I should do, instead of following my own broken instincts, I finally started to see pieces of the plan He had for my life and how much He loved me.
I made it a priority to pray and meet with a priest every month to help guide me spiritually. I met with a counselor to seek healing from past wounds and my sexual history. I started going to mass every day that my schedule allowed. Most of all, I began to seek out the friendship of fellow women.
I didn’t realize how deeply I was craving sisterhood. I needed people who understood what my heart was going through. People who wanted to help me heal, or laugh or just shop for the perfect dress. I finally found friends that I wasn’t trying to impress, because I didn’t care if they thought I was pretty, or cool, or desirable. They helped me realize that I was loved because of who I was, and nothing else.
These female relationships have shaped my heart and continue to help me through the tests of life.
After finding my identity as a daughter of God, seeking healing, and surrounding myself with awesome friends, I was at a place to be open to dating again. And that’s when I met Mike….
Lessons from Dating
We quickly fell head over heels for each other. Too quick actually. We were hanging out every day and planning our future. We hadn’t talked about marriage together, but we both told our roommates that we had found “the one.”
Each of us had demanding schedules so our only free time was late at night. We were running short on sleep and were constantly distracted by each other, but it was ok because I loved being with him. And when I wasn’t with him I was thinking about him or talking about him.
Eventually, we started to feel the effects of this imbalance in our relationship. We were tired and our prayer lives started to deteriorate. When we prayed together, I wondered what he was thinking about. When I went to the chapel alone, I would find myself drifting off thinking about him. Sometimes, we would skip prayer to be together. After a few months, I realized this wasn’t healthy and took time to ask God for his guidance again. Finally.
I prayed the scariest prayer of my life.
“Lord, I like this man a lot. If You don’t want me to be with him, take all desire from my heart”
Like lightning, it was gone. I no longer craved his touch, his stories or his life. I hated to admit it but my prayer was answered. We broke up because God “told me to.” It was hard but true.
After a year and a half of avoiding each other around town, and growing as individuals, we slowly started becoming friends again. Things seemed to click immediately. Our friendship is so natural and we quickly grew to laughing and dancing together again.
Deciding to enter into a relationship for the second time was a long and prayer-filled experience for both of us. Having fun together wasn’t a sturdy foundation for a soon-to-be long distance relationship. We talked a lot about my upcoming move to Denver for work and his career goals as a musician, but our most important conversation was about our prayer lives.
Mike admitted to me in hindsight that he was “too selfish” the first time we dated. That he wanted all my time and didn’t want to share me with God. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I was selfish too. We had put each other before our relationship with God.
We knew this had to change and made a commitment to daily prayer individually. In addition, we wanted to pray together before we hung up the phone at night if we had time. This decision changed the course of our relationship.
We now had our priorities in order. We needed to cling to Christ first and continue to encourage each other in our relationship with the Lord.
This also deepened our conversations and relationship. We shared insights from prayer and taught each other different ways to pray. I saw a whole new side of Mike I never knew before: his strength as a son of God and as a man.
I grew in awe of his relationship and trust in God. I learned to trust Mike more, knowing that he was trying to live a life imitating Christ. For a stubborn woman like me, it’s a lot easier to trust the leadership of a man who is closely following God, than to try to trust the decisions of a broken human being.
It wasn’t long before we knew marriage was in our future, but I could not have predicted what engagement would bring for us.
(to be continued...)